2005-01-03 10:30:00
Embassy Dhaka
Cable title:  


pdf how-to read a cable
This record is a partial extract of the original cable. The full text of the original cable is not available.
C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 02 DHAKA 000013 


E.O. 12958: DECL: 01/01/2010

REF: 04 DHAKA 1647

Classified By: P/E Counselor D.C. McCullough, reason 1.4(b)

C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 02 DHAKA 000013


E.O. 12958: DECL: 01/01/2010

REF: 04 DHAKA 1647

Classified By: P/E Counselor D.C. McCullough, reason 1.4(b)

1. (C) Summary. Proshika Chairman Qazi Farooq is cautiously
optimistic that "sympathetic" BNP leaders will release the
USD 50 million in donor funds blocked for three years by the
NGO Affairs Bureau because of Proshika's alleged financial
and political misdeeds. Farooq blames Proshika's woes on
Jamaat Islami disinformation, but BNP suspicions of socially
progressive NGO's like Proshika run deep. End Summary.

2. (SBU) On December 30, polcouns met for 65 minutes with
Proshika NGO Chairman Qazi Farooq Ahmed in Proshika's
14-story headquarters for an update since their last meeting
in May (reftel) two days before Farooq's latest detention.

Beleaguered Proshika

3. (C) Farooq stated that:

-- There are 20 outstanding cases against him and senior
Proshika officials, 15 relating to corruption, two to
"anti-state" actions (i.e., pro-opposition political
support),and three tied to assaults on Proshika premises
last spring--"all with total government connivance and
totally without foundation." All reflect First Information
Reports (FIR),with no formal charges having been filed. "As
far as I know, no investigation is being carried out." He
has "anticipatory" bail for 17 cases. The High Court has
excused him from appearing personally for the monthly court
hearing on three cases, and the 15 corruption cases are, for
his convenience, all heard on a single day. There are also
22 tax cases against him, and eight against Proshika.

-- High Court action forced the BDG to release him after his
latest period of detention, and blocked efforts to hold him
on remand, which contacts in the intelligence community had
told him meant torture in a military interrogation cell. His
current health is good, though his wife initially had trouble
getting him insulin for his diabetes when he was in jail,
where he also developed some heart problems. He lost 9 kilos
in his one month of detention, before serving another month
under house arrest.

-- He has the right to travel abroad but doesn't for fear his
re-entry would be blocked or he'd be charged with


-- The National Revenue Board (tax authorities) two days ago
wrote one of Proshika's banks saying its accounts should be
frozen because of a pending criminal tax liability, ignoring
Proshika's legal right to appeal. Proshika's lawyers have
told this and its other banks that compliance with this
letter would be illegal and expose them to counter-claims.

-- People with close ties to the top of the BDG know the BDG
has "over-reached" against Proshika, that there is little
else they can do to harass it, and that the time has come for
dialogue and reconciliation.

-- Two weeks ago, the High Court struck down the NGO Affairs
Bureau's new demand for NGO's to re-register every five
years, saying the requirement had no basis in law. A less
onerous demand for renewing NGO licenses every five years
remains in place.

4. (C) In September and November, Farooq said, he met
separately with Local Government Minister/BNP Secretary
General Abdul Mannan Bhuyian, PMO Political Secretary Haris
Chowdhury, and several BNP MP's, including Prime Minister
Zia's brother. All allegedly expressed support for
Proshika's position, affirmed a desire to work with it on
poverty alleviation, and undertook to promote a positive
resolution of Proshika's standoff with the NGO Affairs
Bureau. They did not raise Farooq's alleged pro-Awami League
actions, and Bhuyian reportedly characterized the blocking of
nearly USD 50 million in donor funds to Proshika for three
years as a "mistake."

5. (C) Farooq continues to blame Proshika's woes on
"rumor-mongering" by Jamaat Islami, which objects to
Proshika's traditional emphasis on women's empowerment
programs. He urged the international community, including
the USG, to "urge but not pressure" the BDG to release
Proshika's funds.

Election Prospects

6. (C) Farooq hopes for a generally free and fair general
election in 2007 provided the Electoral Commission and BDG
accept proposed reforms to:

-- raise but then enforce the currently unrealistic spending
cap of 300,000 taka (about USD 5,000) per constituency, and
stop the sale by BNP and the Awami League of seat nominations
for between 10-20 million taka;

-- use people other than inherently pro-BDG District
Commissioners as election returning officers; and

-- use electronic voting.

7. (C) Farooq acknowledged concerns that the Caretaker Chief
Adviser presumptive, the current High Court Chief Justice,
has a BNP lineage but said, "He has been a good judge and has
been able to rise above his party affiliation. Maybe he can
do that again." Asked to comment on the speculated
appointment this spring of Home Secretary Omar Farooq as the
new Chief Election Commissioner, Farooq replied, "He would be
totally unacceptable. He is not a man of integrity, and he
has a long history as a Jamaat cadre. It is said that the
Rohyingas became armed and terrorists because of him, when he
was commissioner in Chittagong."


8. (C) While it is positive that senior BNP figures like
Bhuyian and Chowdhury received Farooq, BNP hard-liner
suspicions of socially progressive NGO's like Proshika run
deeper than Jamaat disinformation, and re-opening Proshika's
donor pipeline seems unlikely. More typical of the BDG's
approach to such NGO's is the apparent "Confidential" report,
passed to us by another beleaguered NGO, Rupantar, from the
Home Ministry's "Political Section" urging the NGO Affairs
Bureau to cancel Rupantar's registration because of the
alleged financial and political misdeeds of its CEO, Swapan
Guha, who is essentially accused of being an Indian agent.
More encouragingly, the High Court's intervention on behalf
of Farooq and the NGO's shows Bangladesh's apex judiciary
still has the ability to constrain BDG excesses, and the
difference between it and the BDG-controlled lower courts.
For the BNP, such independence underscores why the BDG is
dragging its feet on implementing High Court directives and
its own campaign promises to separate the judiciary from the